Are you willing to pay for app updates?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| June 2, 2012


Have you noticed there’s been a strange, if not subtle way that we as consumers view our smartphones? More specifically, the way that we view the things we have on our smartphones, or the operating system on it? It’s this belief that after we pay the money to buy our phone, or an application, that anything added to that phone or application should come to us free. It should already be ours since we paid money to get what’s being updated originally.

I find myself thinking the same thing more often than not, but I think that’s because the majority of developers have spoiled us. Even the manufacturers could be considered to have done the same thing. Updates almost seem mandatory now, something that we expect to be given to us without question.

Should there be a change to this? After all, we love our apps, right?

Applications and hardware, especially software, are liable to get some kind of bugs or hiccups over time. Even right out of the box, or right after an application’s first launch. It happens. While these developers and creators try their hardest to create the best product possible, things happen. An update is usually offered to fix the issue, and I believe that these are the updates that should be mandatory. These are the updates that should be free.

Because we paid for an experience, and if that experience is ruined in some fashion or another, then it needs to be fixed. More to the point, we shouldn’t have to pay for them to fix the experience we already paid for.

But an update to an application that boasts new features, new levels for a game, or a revamp to the next level of an operating system? I think the area is a bit gray here. I’ve already asked why we believe our phones appreciate in value over time, something that is completely focused on smartphones and their mobile operating systems, so I’m going to shy away from the operating system part of it, and focus on the applications.

I can use a pretty distinct example right out of the gate, too. Developer CHAIR has created a series of games for iOS that has become ridiculously popular since the original title launched. Apple even uses the titles in the series to promote their iPad and iPhone, that’s how good these games look and play. Infinity Blade and Infinity Blade 2 are the benchmarks of top-tier mobile gaming.

And the updates are free.

Since the first game, CHAIR has made it a point to say that their updates, which include a wide range of advancements to the game itself, including new levels, items, and almost everything in between, are free. And they have been. I don’t see this as a trend that is going to stop. Like I said above, we’re spoiled as consumers now.

Just look at the video game industry. For all intents and purposes, these developers are doing exactly the same thing, just in a different medium. They create something, we buy it, and then there are all sorts of additions released over time (usually). The difference is, these video game developers issue updates that fix the game for free, but make consumers pay for extra levels, more maps for multiplayer gaming, and more weapons. They’ve found the gray area, and they’ve made a business out of capitalizing on it.

Perhaps the question is, does that make the mobile industry that much better? Honestly, are we spoiled? If we look at the way that the majority of developers handle their applications, and the fact that they offer us so much after our purchase for free, I think the answer is pretty clear.

Yes, yes we are.

And here’s another question I pose to you: would you be willing to pay for updates to your apps, if they weren’t specifically created for maintenance? Would you be willing to pay for more levels, more items or whatever else? More features? Let me know in the comments below.